VitroLabs Inc, a Bay-Area-based biotech start-up leading the development of a new scientific process to grow the world's first cellular cultivated animal leather, announced that it has closed its Series A financing to build and scale pilot production. The company has raised a total of $46 million. Series A funding is led by Agronomics; other investors include BESTSELLER's Invest FWD, global luxury group Kering, Khosla Ventures, actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio, New Agrarian, and Regeneration.VC. In addition, Kering continues its partnership with VitroLabs in bringing support for product quality testing, tanning, and finishing.
CEO Ingvar Helgason co-founded VitroLabs with the mission to create the highest quality materials that meet the uncompromising standards of the luxury industry while drastically lowering environmental impact and furthering animal welfare. "At a time when environmental stewardship is more important than ever, biotech companies have the opportunity to lead the way in changing how we produce materials and build supply chains, working hand in hand with existing artisans and craftspeople who are the cornerstone of the $400B leather goods industry," says Helgason. "By launching the first production of cultivated leather, we'll hit a major milestone in fulfilling our mission to lead the shift towards a more sustainable future."
"At Kering, a chapter/pillar of our sustainability roadmap is dedicated to sustainable innovation and actively looking for alternative materials that can reduce our environmental impact over the long term is part of the solutions we have been exploring for years. We believe that innovation is key to addressing the sustainability challenges that the luxury industry is facing, which is why we are very interested in the potential of biomaterials such as cultivated leather," said Marie-Claire Daveu, Chief Sustainability and Institutional Affairs Officer at Kering.
Helgason adds: "There has been an explosion of companies that are developing alternative materials to leather. However at VitroLabs, our cultivated animal leather preserves the biological characteristics that the industry, craftsmen, and consumers know and love about leather, while eliminating the most environmentally and ethically detrimental aspects of the conventional leather manufacturing process associated with its sourcing."
Based in Milpitas, California, VitroLabs is the first start-up positioned to bring cultivated leather to scale. Since 2016, the company has been pioneering the cutting edge material made by using advanced tissue engineering processes to create cell cultivated animal leather from only a few animal cells. The company has made significant progress on product quality in the optimization of cell expansion processes and proprietary design of a novel, large-scale tissue cultivator. Last fall, VitroLabs moved into its new, 45,000 square foot facility, designed for pilot production and laboratory space as the company moves from the bench towards commercialization. Series A funding will be used to fast-track commercialization, with expansion of scientific, manufacturing, and business development teams. "VitroLabs' scalable tissue engineering platform provides sustainable, high quality leather," says Jim Mellon of Agronomics. "We are thrilled to be continuing our support for VitroLabs, the leading luxury cultivated leather company ready for commercialisation."
Co-Founder and stem cell scientist Dr. Dusko Ilic says: "Over the last two years, we have been laser-focused on pushing our tissue engineering platform in order to increase efficiency and to optimize tissue production to obtain the look, feel, and performance of traditional leather at scale. With several major breakthroughs in the areas of bioreactor design, bioprocess and facility design, and cell culture development, we are now on our way to a scalable process that delivers the desired premium qualities, forging a path towards the ultimate goal of industrialization."